The paradox goes like this: you need experience for a job, but you need a job for experience. Here are the top ways I made money in high school, and how other teens can make money or start a business in high school!
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Your teen years are a great time to start building a portfolio/resume/experience, earning extra cash for your future, and exploring potential careers. (Here are 10 reasons why I believe teens should start a business)
1. Swagbucks, Ibotta, and other apps
In my early teens, I used Swagbucks all the time. From March 2014 to the present, I’ve raked in over $350 in Amazon gift cards; with the majority of those transactions in my first year. Payoff isn’t that great, but if you have lots of spare time, this is a great way to earn some extra cash!
You can earn Swagbucks for things like watching videos, taking surveys, answering daily polls, buying through their links, using their search engine, and playing games. Now, I mainly use their search engine, where I will randomly earn anywhere from 7 Swagbucks to 40 Swagbucks. (A general conversion is 1 cent = 1 Swagbuck) It’s not a big payoff, but considering I don’t really do much, the $25 Amazon gift cards every couple months are always appreciated!
I’ve recently fell in love with Ibotta, a rebate app that includes popular brands from everything from Jo Ann Fabrics to L’Oreal eye shadow to Banana Boat sunscreen. Similar to coupon-clipping, it doesn’t take long and has a fair payout, which you can turn in for gift cards to sites like Amazon or Sephora. My favorite part is since it’s a rebate program, it doesn’t matter if you forget to “clip” the coupon before you go shopping. You can do it afterwards! Use my referral link and get a bonus $10 if you redeem a rebate within your first two weeks.
2. Start a business
My official entrepreneur journey began with The Parsi Company. The Parsi Company helped me kickstart my professional blogging career. I created frugal and reusable alternatives to paper towels and sandwich bags. Through a program called the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, I earned $1,275 to start my business, and used that for start-up materials, a sewing machine, and a website.
With The Parsi Company, I’ve had many networking opportunities, and have been very successful with local craft shows. I’ve learned to stick with large, trendy craft shows, instead of smaller ones. At one particular one-day show called Madison Road, I initially had many trendy prints, and despite the huge crowd, only made $200. I learned that that particular craft show was geared towards a retro and vintage market. At the next Madison Road show, I made a little over $800, selling out of product. And finally, the next Madison Road, I brought more product and debuted my sandwich bags, and made over $1,200.
I began blogging in early 2013. When one of my very first posts gained over 100 repins within 24 hours, I knew blogging was for me. It’s been an opportunity to share my passions with others, and let my creativity flourish. Since then, I’ve worked hard writing in-demand content, marketing, and making great images. Three years later, I was making around $300 a month blogging; mainly from Amazon affiliate earnings and ad earnings.
To get started blogging, I would recommend a site on WordPress, a basic blogging platform. (Here’s why I prefer WordPress over Blogger, although Blogger is the easier platform.)
4. Freelance work
Freelance writing and freelance graphic designing have been a great money-making opportunity for me. Best online gigs to freelance?
- Graphic design
- Web design/coding
- Proof reader
It takes time to build up experience and an audience, but with quality content, experience and time; your freelance gigs can bring in a nice chunk of change equivalent to a part time job for a fraction of the time.
Pay is great, as you set your rate. Hours are flexible, allowing time for a possible part time job. I find most of my gigs through blogging contacts and Facebook groups. (Facebook groups also don’t take out a fee, which is an extra bonus.)
Fiverr is a popular place to find gigs. Sections range from video and animation, to digital marketing, music, programming, and gag gifts. For the buyer, gigs start at $5, and can go up according to complexity, rush orders, etc. For the sellers, Fiverr takes 20% ($1). I haven’t had any experience with Fiverr, but it can be a great way to get your business rolling.
5. Sell old things around the house
Garage sales are a fast, simple and easy way to get rid of old junk in your house! Other methods like Amazon, eBay, Facebook garage sale groups, and Craigslist may take a little longer, but the payout is bigger. eBay and Facebook garage sales are the most profitable, since Facebook doesn’t take out a fee and eBay’s fees are very low; whereas Amazon takes a good chunk of your profits. However, Amazon is definitely the faster way to sell things like books and movies. The key is to find your groove and know what sells better on Amazon versus eBay.
The key to successfully selling things online is quality photographs, and sometimes washing things off. (It’s easier to sell something that looks new, instead of something with a bunch of dirt on it)
6. Buy and resell things
For the extra savvy, you can quickly create a money-making hobby by buying and reselling. Carefully checking garage sales and eBay for great deals can pay off! Sometimes, to double or triple your money, all you have to do is give something a good scrub. I often buy fabric at rock bottom clearance prices, and resell them for just under the typical retail rate. I also sell my scraps at very low prices, simply because I’d just be throwing them away if I wasn’t.
Have an eye for style? For the extra savvy, you can refurbish old, broken furniture and transform them something new. (Pinterest is a great resource)
7. Sell Old Clothes Online
My sister and I love selling our old clothes online! I use the app Poshmark, which makes it easy to sell my old clothes. It’s safe and secure, and Poshmark makes the process simple. (Use my code PVHFY when you sign up to get $5 off your first purchase.)
8. Save Your Money
One of the best ways I have “made” money is simply not spending what I already have.
I use the library for books and movies, and use Amazon Prime (they offer college students with an .edu e-mail 50% off an already great deal) for music, movies, and free two day shipping.
I don’t buy on impulse, and have found ways to make money (or at least work productively) in my tiny products of time. Many stores from Ann Taylor to Subway to Apple offer student discounts; it never hurts to ask!
More Ways Teens Can Make Money
I think finding unique ways to earn big bucks in your teen years (and even beyond) comes down to two things: Knowing your skills and passions and turning them into a marketable skill. Making connections, working hard, and working smart is important. Any business takes time to grow; to market successfully, to narrow down your niche. It’s taken me years to perfect my images and style; and even then I am constantly finding ways to improve myself.
- Babysitting (This teen makes six figures a year with her babysitting business)
- Lawn mowing
- House sitting
- Leaf raking/snow shoveling/weed pulling
- Pet sitting
- Gift wrapping (especially around Christmastime)
- Washing cars
- Investing (with the help of a trusted adult!)
Creative and artsy?
In three years, teenager LeiLei Secor was able to make over $100,000 selling her handmade jewelry on Etsy. Since then, she’s also launched her own website. You can read about LeiLei’s successes in her own words on Entrepreneur.
Lani Lazzari began her sugar scrub business, Simple Sugars, at just 11 years old. Seven years later as an 18 year-old, she found herself in the Shark Tank, and walked out with a successful $100,000 deal with billionaire Mark Cuban.
- Sell your creations at craft shows
- Sell your creations on sites like Etsy (remember to set up your account under a parent’s name)
- Sell your artwork and typography on sites like Creative Market
- Upload tutorials on YouTube (as you grow, you can get sponsors, and starting out you can place ads)
- Showcase your artwork on social media and gain a strong following (for sponsorships)
- Host a summer art class
- Gain experience by volunteering to host an art class through your local library
- Create promotional videos for local businesses or events
California teen Bethany Mota went from a bullied kid in middle school to a celebrity YouTube star with her own clothing line on Aeropostale. In the past six years, she has gained nearly one billion YouTube views and over 10 million YouTube subscribers. If you go on her channel, it’s interesting to see how her videos have changed over the years; from a dim-lighted room to quality edited and bright lighting. Her fun and bright personality is contagious!
- Learn to sew, and create originals for local boutiques
- Learn to sew, and make alterations/fix zippers/sew buttons
- Upload make-up and hair tutorials on YouTube
- Create a beauty/style blog
- Become a boutique model
Many talented young musicians have found their big break on YouTube. The key is quality content; from high-quality video to high-quality camera work.
- Upload tutorials on a blog or vlog
- Upload covers and originals on YouTube (the higher quality, the better!)
- Sing at children’s birthday parties (bonus if you can dress up like a Disney princess)
- Learn to program (enough said – and this will take you a couple years)
- Post tutorials on YouTube
- Post walkthroughs on a blog
- Become a game reviewer (blog)
- Teach older people how to use technology
In 1965, a 17 years old opened up a restaurant in Connecticut with a $1000 loan. Today, his company Subway grosses over nine billion dollars.
- Sell baked goods for special events such as weddings and baby showers
- Sell baked goods at craft shows, food shows, or venues
- Make special event cakes
- Cater a certain dish for special events
- Start a food blog or vlog
- Sell your food photography
- Upload video tutorials on YouTube (similar to Khan Academy)
- Create a website and upload tutorials to a website
Christian teen author Rachel Coker recently inspired teens everywhere by getting two of her novels published through Zondervan. Homeschooled twins Alex and Brett Harris wrote the bestselling Do Hard Things, a challenge for teens and young people to set a high standard for themselves and pursue “hard things.”
- Start a book reviewing blog (This is also a great way to get free books!)
- Self-publish using resources like Create Space.
- Submit freelance articles to different publications
- Host a book club
- Create workout videos
- Create workout challenges
- Become a personal trainer
- Host a summer fitness “boot camp” for kids
- Host a fitness club for adults